In Luke 18:9-14, “He also (Jesus) told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt.: Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Those of us (because we’re all sinners), who think we can please God with our works are sadly mistaken; “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the works of the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).” All of us are guilty of this very thing at times, i. e., thinking we can earn favor with God. The present Christian zeitgeist is quite Pharisaical, in that we tend to get things backward, and think that our standing with God depends on what we do in terms of works, both good works for fellow humans, and ecclesiastical works in terms of attendance to sacraments. Actually the converse is true; and it’s what we are by God’s grace, that determines what we will do in regard to works that really count (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5). Real Christian works are done because we are united with Jesus Christ by faith, and because we are saved, not in order to be saved. It only makes sense that if we (think) we must add to what Christ accomplished on the cross, we, in fact, distrust what he did in our behalf; and would, if it were possible, nullify his work in favor of our own works.
Therefore, there is a tendency to want to please God by what we do, rather than simply coming to Christ by faith, and trusting in his righteousness alone. The Pharisee in Luke 18 tried to make God obligated to him by reminding God how good he was. The tax collector, knowing that he fell far short of the glory of God, made his plea on the basis of God’s mercy and goodness to sinners. All of us must know, for the sake of our eternal souls, where we stand in regard to the finished work of Christ.
The late J. Vernon McGee, nearly always made this plea for Jesus Christ at the end of his sermon: “Friends, do you know Him? Do you love Him? Will you serve Him?” We need to ask ourselves these same questions today.
As ever, with love for all in Christ,
Bill Biza aka Bluegill Bill